U.S. Wind Energy Installations Top 20 Gigawatts

The U.S. wind industry has pushed past the 20,000-megawatt (MW) installed capacity milestone, achieving in two years what had previously taken more than two decades, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said Wednesday. Wind now provides 20,152 MW of electricity generating capacity in the U.S.

“Wind energy installations are well ahead of the curve for contributing 20% of the U.S. electric power supply by 2030 as envisioned by the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Randall Swisher, AWEA’s executive director. “However, the looming expiration of the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) less than four months from now threatens this spectacular progress.”

According to a U.S. Department of Energy study released in May, wind could provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030. At that level, wind power would support 500,000 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 140 million vehicles off the road, AWEA said.

The U.S. is now the world leader in wind electricity generation. While Germany has more generating capacity installed (approximately 23,000 MW), the U.S. however is producing more electricity from wind because of its stronger wind resources. AWEA expects more than 7,500 MW of new wind capacity to be added in 2008, expanding America’s wind energy fleet by 45% and bringing total U.S. capacity to some 24,300 MW.

Although 20,000 MW is an important milestone, wind power provides just over 1.5% of the nation’s electricity, far below the potential identified by experts. Still, it is one of the fastest-growing electricity sources today, providing 35% of the total new capacity added in 2007 (second only to natural gas). The U.S. had 1,000 MW of wind power installed by 1985, 2,000 MW installed by 1999, 5,000 MW by 2003 and 10,000 MW were installed by mid-2006.

Swisher and other wind industry leaders noted the 20,000-MW milestone from Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention is currently being held. Xcel Energy, the host utility for both the Republican convention and the Democratic National Convention held last week in Denver, is providing wind-generated electricity from its system to power both events.

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